“Why aren’t you drinking?!” Gable roared over the music.
Declan furrowed his brow. Why were his thoughts suddenly imperative to Gable?
“I’m not thinking anything,” he responded and took a sip from his water bottle.
Gable rolled his eyes and smiled, “I said,” he leaned in, “Why aren’t you drinking?”
Declan choked on the lingering water, and chuckled. A simple misunderstanding.
“I’ll drink in a bit. Just need to hydrate.” He raised his voice enough for Gable to hear him.
Gable nodded and sipped from his beer. With Shandi being a no show, there wasn’t much else for them to do, but to enjoy the ambiance.
People migrated around the house periodically, but most favored the back yard, where the keg and fire pit were. Some, as Gable had done all night, played beer pong, in the garage, while others took shots and mingled in the kitchen.
Declan looked towards Gable. His hair was starting to grow out and curl at the sides, his chiseled jawline tensed every time he chewed his gum… His acne had improved considerably over the summer, thanks to a few recommendations he had given him. He looked radiant.
Gable scanned the room, and caught Declan’s eye. It was almost as if he were kvelling, but why?
“What’s up?” Gable nodded towards him.
“Nothing.” Declan shook his head, “I’m sorry,” he grimaced.
“I said,” Declan raised his voice, “I’m sorry!”
He neared him, in order to hear him more clearly, “Why?”
Gable’s cologne burst through Declan’s nostrils with its intoxicatingly romantic aroma. It was an unmistakeable citrus top note, paired a soothing sandalwood base; it reminded him of a beach. He could smell geraniums somewhere in the mixture... The scent left him unfettered and alive.
“Because, of Shandi...” Declan, still entranced by his aroma, finally confessed.
Gable shrugged and shook his head, “It’s no biggie… You alright?”
“Yeah,” Declan grinned, “What’re you wearing?”
Gable furrowed his brow once more, and responded, “Clothes?”
The gymnast laughed and snorted, “I meant what cologne are you wearing.”
“Nice snort,” Gable teased and took another sip of his beer, “It’s this cologne called ‘Frisson, for Men’ by some brand... I think it’s Alex or something.”
Declan’s eyes widened, “Adex Inc.?”
“Yeah,” Gable nodded, “That’s the one!”
“I have some clothes from there. It’s my favorite store! This shirt is from there!”
“Nice. I like it. Yeah, I try not to use too much cologne, because it never lasts me long.” The jock confessed, and Declan made a mental note.
They both glanced in the direction of an altercation outside.
“GO, GO, GO, GO!” The unmistakable sounds of someone attempting a keg stand. He hadn’t seen most of these people since he started training months ago, but they didn’t seem to really care for his attendance.
It offended him; something within him loathed them for not caring about his weight loss. Their cavalier demeanor cut right through him, but he couldn’t do anything about it. At least, Gable was at ease, and it showed more with each beer the jock consumed.
“You... You need to drink more.” Gable poked him in his chest and winked, some time later. Why did he just wink at him? Was it from coming off a beer pong win, or the alcohol? Declan shook it off and nodded his head. While Gable celebrated his win with a couple other guys, Declan walked off to find a drink with less caloric value.
He walked past a flurry of familiar faces, before reaching the kitchen. It was quaint, but, more importantly, it was empty and quiet. At last, he was able to breathe calmly.
He wasn’t exactly a social person, even before he began training, so naturally he felt out of his element. He foraged the kitchen for something healthier to drink, until Gable walked in.
“What are you doing in here? You just walked off. Are you mad at me? Don’t be mad at me.” He bantered, again, in a drunken stupor.
His intoxication was growing blatantly obvious. Declan couldn’t do much but shake his head and smile at the jock. It was weird, but seeing him care about the state of his feelings towards him was endearing.
“I’m not mad, at all,” He chuckled, “You’re just drunk, Mr. Cask.”
“You’re drunk!” Gable retorted eliciting a laugh from Declan.
“Haha, that’s rich coming from you. How many have you had?”
“How many have you had,” Gable asked back.
The distance between them waned during their exchange. It wasn’t until their faces were inches away that they realized how close they actually were. They looked into each other’s eyes and fell silent.
Gable was the first to lean in, and kissed Declan. The moment their lips met, electricity surged between their bodies… Both felt their skin prickle with goose bumps.
The lights in the kitchen flickered abruptly, eliciting sounds of groans from their fellow party goers. Both startled, looked around for a source.
“What just happened?” Declan asked.
“Fireworks.” Gable responded, and leaned into kiss him again, “Don’t tell anyone. Alright?”
“Why would I tell anyone?” Declan’s head was spinning, he was breathless.
“I don’t know, just please don’t.” He pleaded, breathily, but before he could kiss the gymnast again, a couple walked into the kitchen.
“Declan?!” The taller guy inquired, Declan turned to look at him and emitted a small yelp.
“Michael!!!!” He ran towards him and hugged the guy, “I haven’t seen you in forever! How are you best friend?!”
“Oh, alright, douche. I guess, I’m not your best friend…” Another voice emitted.
“Yes, bitch. I am here.” Declan externalized another yelp and hugged her.
“Sarah!!!” He exclaimed, overcome with excitement; he hadn’t seen her, since before he started training again. As they lost themselves in conversation, Gable managed to slip out of the kitchen.
He walked back into the living room, as people cleared into the backyard, and sat down on a couch.
He couldn’t quite make sense of what had happened, but he wasn’t upset at it either. A kiss was just a kiss, right? He’d kissed other guys, before Declan. Sure, he’d never admitted it, but he had experimented… To an extent.
He fiddled with the cup in his hands; people passed him by in blurs. Some exchanging pleasantries with him, but mostly ignoring his presence. He was drunk, and numb, at this point. No matter how much he tried to make sense of the kiss, his mind wouldn’t allow him to clearly assess the situation, then again, it could’ve just been the alcohol.
What if they’d been caught? Was he truly ready to have a relationship with a guy? Or was it just a drunken mistake?
“Hey.” A voice behind him called. It was some girl, he knew he had seen her before, but he couldn’t quite place her. She neared and sat by him, after he nodded his head towards her.
“What’s up?” He slurred.
“Oh, nothing, just walking around. Do I know you? I know you, right?” She asked coyly, as she put her hair behind her ear.
“I don’t know; I’m Gable.” He smirked.
“I’m Steffy, nice to meet you.” She scooted near him, on the couch. They talked for a few minutes, before she leaned in to kiss him.
“Well, did you know her?” Dr. Anderson scribbled furiously.
“I knew of her, and had talked to her a few times, but we weren’t… Friends or anything.” He squinted his eyes.
“So, you never tried to hook her up with him?”
“Not up to that point, but a while after that, yes.” Declan confessed.
“So, why were you mad?” He scribbled on.
“Because,” Declan begun, “I wanted him to trust me, but I didn’t realize I had feelings for him, then. Or… At least, I underestimated how strong they were.”
Gable didn’t have much of a choice, due to the alcohol, but kissed back. As far as he knew, it was perfectly innocent, just as his kiss with Declan. Wait… Declan. His mind raced, but he couldn’t fight it. She smelt like flowers, as opposed to Declan, who smelled like Axe body spray.
The longer they kissed, the less inhibited he became. His hands ran up and down her back, as she groped his mounds. His hands explored her body, and although he thought this was what he wanted, he couldn’t help but think of the teenager in the kitchen. Their kiss had been exhilarating, conversely, this… This felt arbitrary.
Declan, Sarah, and Michael walked through the, presumably, vacated living room after being engrossed in conversation for the past few minutes. Declan’s face dropped when he saw the scene before him; Gable was on the couch, furiously making out with Steffy. He was confused, had the kiss in the kitchen not meant anything to him? If so, why was he making out with her? He felt as if the air had been knocked out of him.
“Hey, dude… We’re going to go outside to smoke, you want to come?” Michael asked him, seeing the look of disbelief on Declan’s face. Gable turned his head to see who had made the proposition. His face, too, fell once he realized who was standing behind them.
Declan and Gable locked eyes, he could feel the hurt radiating from his eyes and lightly pushed Steffy away. She looked towards Sarah and Michael, and finally Declan, whom she glared at with envy.
“Go hang out with your… Friend.” She snarled as she got up and walked away, not without shooting another nasty glare towards Declan.
“So… You coming?” Michael reiterated.
“No. You guys go ahead.” He rejected their offer, and they left. He’d never smoked anything before in his life, and tonight would be no different.
“Declan… I’m sorry…” Gable began apologizing in hiccups and slurs.
“Gable, don’t worry about it…” Declan denied his apology, “You’re straight, and I get that. I mean… If anything, we should both be happy for you.”
Gable stumbled, as he made his way towards him. It was unnerving to see the jock in this manner. He felt embarrassed for him, but at the same time… He couldn’t be mad at what he’d done. They weren’t together. They were just friends, and friends only.
“Declan, I didn’t mean to do that. She just…” Gable reached to grab his hand, but Declan snapped it away.
“Don’t worry about it, bro. I’ll see you out there.” He said as he walked away and back into the party.
He retrieved his phone from his pocket, and furiously texted Sarah to see where they were. After walking around for a while, he found them sitting in the bed of a truck. He climbed in, and was handed what looked to be a cigarette.
“Careful, don’t hit it too hard,” Michael advised, as Declan inhaled, “Hold it in… There you go… How does that feel?” Michael inquired, his eyes bloodshot.
A slight haze overcame Declan, as he coughed, and passed the joint. The dejection he’d felt from seeing Gable make out with Steffy completely vanished; it was as if though all his worries started escaping him. He sat down next to his best friends and exhaled the remnants of the smoke and pain.
“Ah-mazing.” He smirked. He’d never done any illegal drugs, so this was definitely a milestone. He couldn’t help but give into the high and let the marijuana do its job.
It wasn’t until Gable called Declan that he realized how long they had actually been hanging out and rambling about nothing.
“Oh, look… It’s the man who jilted me.” Declan said in a spurt of giggles, “Hello, Peter Gaaaable.”
“Where are you?” Gable asked urgently.
“I’m in the bed of this truck… Where are youuu?”
“In the bathroom. You ready to leave?” Gable inquired, growing increasingly irritated.
“Are you ready to leave?” Declan joked.
“Shit, Declan. I’m not playing around. Can we leave?” Gable pressed on.
“Actually… You can. I’m going to stay with my friends.”
“Yeah, some friends you have. You go around telling people that we’re together, and how apparently you own me. Those fucking friends? The friends you tell I’m a fucking faggot to?” Gable began to shout.
“What are you talking about?” Declan sat up, motioned towards his friends, climbed out of the truck bed and walked off in order to hear clearly.
“You heard me. While you were off doing God knows what, I was talking to your friends, which… By the way, no one likes you. I don’t even know why I like you. You made me out to be a fucking faggot. I told you, this was between you and me.” Gable was furious, it was evident, and there was nothing Declan could do about it.
“Gable, calm down. That’s not true.” Declan tried to reason. He was panicking.
“Calm down? Are you fucking kidding me? I saw the texts, Declan. I’ve heard what you’ve said to them.” Gable spat into the phone.
“Texts? What do you mean ‘texts’? Look, just…”
“No, fuck you. I’m done. Steffy told me everything. I can’t do this. Don’t talk to me ever again, faggot.”
“STEFFY?!” Declan exclaimed, “What do you mean Steffy told you everything? About what?! GABLE!!” Declan cried out.
“YEAH! Steffy told me every fucking thing. Seriously? I can’t believe I trusted you. You were my best friend.”
“Gable, don’t. Don’t be like this…” Declan pleaded, but he’d already hung up. Tears began to flow from his eyes in cascades, and soon raindrops from heavens above joined the parade down his face.
He spotted Gable walking away from the house and ran towards him in desperation.
“Gable!” He yelled whilst jogging towards the jock.
“Leave me the fuck alone.” Gable muttered.
“No, please, listen to me. You don’t understand, she lied…” Declan reached out to grab his arm.
He swung his arm out of his grasp, accidentally striking Declan’s face. The blow stung the teen’s mouth open. He held his cheek in disbelief.
“Oh, shit… Declan, I’m sorry… I didn’t…”
“No, it’s okay. I shouldn’t have tried to calm you down… It’s just… I don’t want you to be mad at me.”
He knew, in the back of his mind, that he should’ve stood up for himself and express the severity of the hit. However, he didn’t want to infuriate, or emasculate the jock, so… He let it go.
“Look, I don’t want to do this right now. I don’t even know what I’m doing here with you, and now this… I’ll talk to you later, don’t text me. I’ll call you when I’m ready to talk, or whatever… Just… Yeah… I’ll just… Yeah…” And with that he walked off, leaving Declan under the rain. Alone. High and dry.
“And, then, we didn’t speak for a while… Almost a year.” Declan shook his head.
“I imagine you focused on your training, in the meanwhile?” Dr. Anderson asked.
“Yeah, that, and school,” Declan frowned, “I was involved in so many extracurriculars the year before, and then… Well, I dropped everything, in order to focus on my training.” He sighed.
It had been tough giving everything up, in order to better his health. With each passing word, he felt the weight of the rolodex of emotions as they swept over him.
Every feeling from the warmth of Gable’s friendship, to the blistery bleakness of his deceit, to the adversity he faced in order to get in shape, flowed through him. At times, it was difficult, but eventually, like every river, the memories coursed out into the ocean that was his past.